Introduction: Necroptosis is a form of programmed cell death that is different from apoptotic cell death. Receptor-interacting protein kinase 1 (RIPK1) plays a particularly important function in necroptosis execution. This study investigated changes in expression of RIPK1 in secondary neural tissue damage following spinal cord injury in mice. The time course of the RIPK1 expression was also compared with that of apoptotic cell death in the lesion site. Methods and Materials: Immunostaining for RIPK1 was performed at different time points after spinal cord injury. The protein expressions of RIPK1 were determined by western blot. The RIPK1 expressions in various neural cells were investigated using immunohistochemistry. To investigate the time course of apoptotic cell death, TUNEL-positive cells were counted at the different time points. To compare the incidence of necroptosis and apoptosis, the RIPK1-labeled sections were co-stained with TUNEL. Results: The RIPK1 expression was significantly upregulated in the injured spinal cord. The upregulation of RIPK1 expression was observed in neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes. The increase in RIPK1 expression started at 4 hours and peaked at 3 days after injury. Time course of the RIPK1 expression was similar to that of apoptosis detected by TUNEL. Interestingly, the increased expression of RIPK1 was rarely observed in the TUNEL-positive cells. Furthermore, the number of RIPK1-positive cells was significantly higher than that of TUNEL-positive cells. Conclusions: This study demonstrated that the expression of RIPK1 increased in various neural cells and peaked at 3 days following spinal cord injury. The temporal change of the RIPK1 expression was analogous to that of apoptosis at the lesion site. However, the increase in RIPK1 expression was barely seen in the apoptotic cells. These findings suggested that the RIPK1 might contribute to the pathological mechanism of the secondary neural tissue damage after spinal cord injury.
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